Kathasaritsagara (the Ocean of Story)

by Somadeva | 1924 | 1,023,469 words | ISBN-13: 9789350501351

This is the English translation of the Kathasaritsagara written by Somadeva around 1070. The principle story line revolves around prince Naravāhanadatta and his quest to become the emperor of the Vidhyādharas (‘celestial beings’). The work is one of the adoptations of the now lost Bṛhatkathā, a great Indian epic tale said to have been composed by ...

Note on the “grateful animals” motif

Note: this text is extracted from Book X, chapter 65 (story of the Grateful Animals and the Ungrateful Woman).

“There was a certain man of noble soul, who was an incarnation of a portion of a Bodhisattva, whose heart was melted by compassion only, who had built a hut in a forest and lived there, performing austerities. He, while living there, by his power rescued living beings in distress, and Piśācas and others he gratified by presents of water and jewels”.

This story is found, with the substitution of a man for a woman, on p. 128 of Benfey’s Pantschatantra, vol. ii. See also vol. i, p. 191 et seq., where he gives several useful references. Cf. Rasavāhinī, chap. iii (Spiegel’s Anecdota Palicà). It is also found in the Karma Śalaka. Cf. also Matthæus Paris, Hist. Maj., London, 1571, pp. 240-242, where it is told of Richard Cceur de Lion; Gesta Romanorum, chap. cxix; Gower, Confessio Amantis, Book V; E. Meier, Schwäbische Volksmärchen. Cf. also for the gratitude of the animals the fourth story in Campbell’s Tales of the West Highlands. The animals are a dog, an otter and a falcon, p. 74 et seq.

The Mongolian form of the story is to be found in Sagas from the Far East, tale 13. See also the twelfth and twenty-second of Miss Stokes’ Indian Fairy Tales. There is a striking illustration of the gratitude of animals in Grimm’s No. 62, and in Bartsch’s Sagen, Märchen und Gebräuche aus Meklenburg, vol. i, p. 483. De Gubernatis in a note to p. 129 of vol. ii of his Zoological Mythology mentions a story of grateful animals in Afanasief. The hero finds some wolves fighting for a bone, some bees fighting for honey, and some shrimps fighting for a carcass; he makes a just division, and the grateful wolves, bees and shrimps help him in need. See also p. 157 of the same volume.

See “Die Dankbaren Thiere” in Gaal’s Märchen der Magyaren, p. 175, and “Der Rothe Hund,” p. 339. In the Saccaṃkira Jātaka, No. 73 (Cambridge edition, vol. i, pp. 177-181), a hermit saves a prince, a rat, a parrot and a snake. The rat and snake are willing to give treasures, the parrot rice, but the prince orders his benefactor’s execution, and is then killed by his own subjects. See Bernhard Schmidt’s Griechische Märchen, p. 3, note. See also Schiefner and Ralston’s Tibetan Tales, Introduction, pp. lxiii-lxv, and 309 et seq.

——Tales in which grateful animals figure and help the hero or heroine out of difficulties, or perform seemingly impossible tasks imposed upon them, are found in nearly every collection of stories in existence. It would be little use to attempt to enumerate them all, even if such a thing were possible. The idea of a reward following a kind action done, when no reward is expected, is a moral lesson which has appealed to story-tellers in all parts of the world, and the “Grateful Animals” motif is another example of the non-migratory motifs. I have already (Vol. I, p. 101n1) given numerous references to stories of grateful snakes. The largest number of analogues to “grateful animals” stories of all kinds is to be found in Bolte and Polívka, op. cit., vol. ii, pp. 19-29. Among the Italian references given, however, they make no mention of Straparola, night 10, fable 3, which deals with the adventures of Cesarino di Berni and the three grateful animals, a lion, a bear and a wolf. (See The Nights, Straparola, trans. W. G. Waters, London, 1894, vol. ii, p. 182 et seq., and the notes on p. 319 of the same volume.)

They also omit the story of “The Large Crab-Louse, the Mouse and the Cricket” in the Pentamerone. It forms the fifth diversion of the third day (see Burton’s trans., vol. ii, p. 283 et seq.). In Hindu fiction the goldsmith is always regarded as the thief par excellence, and in his article on “The Art of Stealing in Hindu Fiction” (Amer. Journ. Phil., vol. xliv, 1923, p. 108 et seq.) Bloomfield gives a useful bibliography with extracts on the subject. The goldsmith takes the place of the ungrateful woman in our tale, and the grateful animals are three in number, as is nearly always the case.—n.m.p.

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